Dear Eleanor

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

One of Mrs. Salad's picks. Sorry, honey, this movie kind of irritated me.

It's 1962 in rural California. 15-year-old Ellie's mom just got fatally hit by a car (but not badly enough for a closed-casket funeral), and Ellie blames herself for making her mom late. If only she'd crossed the street a few seconds earlier! Or later.

Or just waited until she could have crossed the street safely. Sheesh.

Anyway, Dead Mom was a huge Eleanor Roosevelt fan, and was due to introduce her at a shindig. That obviously didn't happen. But Ellie's best friend "Max the Wax" has the wind in her whiskers, and to snap Ellie out of her funk, she inveigles them both into a classic movie road trip, off to see Eleanor at her upstate NY estate.

A lot of unlikely things happen. They pick up an older gentleman whose real-life character (without spoiling things too much) was previously portrayed by Clint Eastwood many years ago. Ellie's dysfunctioning father snaps himself out of depression long enough to go chasing after Ellie with Max's sorta-boyfriend in a sidecar. The girls stop to pick up Max's Aunt Daisy (Jessica Alba), who's working as a Las Vegas dancer. (Unfortunately: Las Vegas, New Mexico.)

It's all kind of contrived, sorry. ("Gee, Max, it's as if our lives are under the control of some wacky screenwriter, and we have no free will of our own!")

Jessica Alba is pretty easy to look at, though, and her fate here is better than it was in Sin City.

Wait a minute, Ione Skye was in this?! I missed that totally.

Eye in the Sky

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

The IMDB genre-classifiers put this movie in "Drama, Thriller, War" categories, although there aren't that many thrills. And, geez, "Comedy" wouldn't be that farfetched, because … well, let me explain.

Helen Mirren plays no-nonsense British Colonel Katherine Powell who has long sought to take homegrown terrorist Susan Danford off the board. (Susan's organization has just brutally killed one of Katherine's undercover operatives, which only serves to heighten Katherine's eagerness.) Years of surveillance have paid off, as Susan is tracked to a small house outside of Nairobi. A drone with a couple Hellfire missiles awaits above. Even better: a couple more high-ranking bad guys are spotted! And making things more urgent, a tiny beetle-sized flying camera has spotted a couple of suicide vests being prepared for an imminent operation!

So, blammo, they take out the house, movie over in 15 minutes, right? Wrong. These sorts of operations need signoffs, especially when the original plan was to capture Susan and bring her back to England for trial. Complicating matters: the house is in a crowded marketplace area, and there could be significant "collateral damage", i.e. not-particularly-terroristic men, women, and children getting blown up.

So there's literally a worldwide discussion between Katherine in Surrey, a civilian/military committee in London (including Alan Rickman in his last movie), drone operators in Nevada, the Secretary of State in China, a spy on the ground in Nairobi, and more. Options are endlessly weighed, arguments about collateral damage vs the risk of not being able to stop the suicide bombers are made. The buck-passing approaches comic levels; a little script-dinking could have made this into Dr. Stranglove for our terroristic age.

But (sorry for the spoiler) the Chekhov's Gun rule applies: you don't put Hellfire missiles in your movie unless you're gonna blow something up eventually.

Here's what I liked: the movie itself doesn't seem to take sides between the hawks and doves. Both are allowed to trot out their best arguments, and neither is presented as either evil or incorrect. (Alan Rickman's final speech is particularly powerful. I'm really going to miss that guy.)

And, oh yeah: Danny from Caddyshack is now the US Secretary of State. I'm glad that he finally made something out of his life.

Last Modified 2016-09-18 12:48 PM EDT